“Oh, honey, come here. Let’s fix that.” Or, “Hey kiddo, let’s clean up that mess.”
Nearly every parent has repeated phrases like these, perhaps many times. With small kids, there’s probably no harm in using this phrase or approach to things from time to time. You see a smear of mustard on your child’s face and say, “Come here sweetie, let’s clean up your face.” The mustard is gone, your child goes her merry way, and you don’t have to worry about mustard stains on the couch. Or their room is a mess, and you say, “C’mon honey, let’s clean your room.” Then you do most of the cleaning because it’s more efficient.
What happens over time though, if this is a regular dynamic, is that kids hear the phrase, “Let’s do this,” and they learn to interpret it to mean, “Someone will do this for me.” As kids grow up accustomed to mom and dad doing things for them, they come to expect it. And not just from mom and dad, but from everyone.
Some parents worry that giving too many compliments might puff their kids up. Others thoughtlessly dole out praise without thought for the deeper impact. What kind of praise will communicate love to your kids without spoiling them?
“You’re the best!” feels good to hear. It also means that others are less great than me. Kids who hear it often might be inclined to compare themselves to others – their skills to other people’s skills. In that realm there’s almost always someone more skilled, so the striving to live up to the description can take on a fairly egotistical bent. Indeed, this sort of affirmation tends to puff up heads. But if your goal is to encourage a child — that is, fill them with courage to do what God created them to do — there is a better way to affirm.
Playing games with our kids can be a fun way to connect. But what happens when one or more of the children struggles with losing gracefully?
Enjoyable playtime can quickly morph into a frustrating outburst.
Kids are upset, other players are uncomfortable, and everyone may begin to tiptoe around the “sore loser” — or even be tempted to let them win all the time to avoid a meltdown! Parents may even begin to worry about their child’s future life as a “sore loser”. If he can’t lose a simple game of checkers, what will happen when he doesn’t make the basketball team? Or when he doesn’t get the promotion he wants?
It can be scary to watch your child spiral out of control — but there’s a better way, a way that can help you reclaim the fun of family game time while also helping your child learn to lose gracefully.
Our team member Chad Hayenga has contributed much to our mission to inspire and equip parents to live out God’s grace in their homes. The story below is one indicator.
One day, my wife and I looked at each other and noticed ourselves doing many things for our kids that they were fully capable of doing for themselves. We also noticed that our kids, to varying degrees, would plead ignorance or inadequacy in an effort to keep us in our enabling roles. We took a step back and asked, “Whose responsibility is this, anyway?” This started our journey toward achieving a more cooperative family.
One of our biggest parenting mistakes is to try to get kids to behave right for the wrong reasons.
Now, it’s a good thing to want our kids to behave responsibly, and to internalize the value of responsibility. But parents tend to turn this desire into a goal for a child’s behavior.
Here’s how it works: When kids fail to take responsibility the way parents want, these parents tend to engage. We nag. We remind. We may even yell, all with the goal of getting our kids to behave responsibly. The problem is, the most important goal of parenting is not to get our kids to behave right, but to believe right. And all this effort towards behavior communicates to our child the very opposite message we’d like them to believe.
Your kids are watching you. Constantly. All the subtle messages from the way you live life are being absorbed by their active little minds, even if neither you nor your child are aware of it. During the summer months, there are more chances for together time as well as opportunities for you to show your kids the kinds of ideals you want them to embrace. How you do vacations is no exception. Family vacations can be memorable and deepen relationships with one another. But, going on a trip somewhere together can also be a wonderful opportunity to teach about the principles that will help your child grow in wisdom. So it’s a good idea before you plan your summer trip to be “biblically thoughtful” about the messages you are sending your child regarding how you vacation.
To Serve or Be Served?
In our hectic society, it’s often easier to skip a vacation because we can’t carve out the time, or collapse in an over-priced luxurious spot just to have rest and ready made entertainment. But…
1994 – Our first mini “mountain” climb. Trip motto: “I laugh in the face of danger!”
If you lounge on the beach under palm tree while your lemonade is kept topped off, might your child get a message that we are here to be served? If you flit from one expensive, engaging activity to another, might your child conclude that we are here to be entertained, at any cost?
Years ago a co-worker of Lynne’s shared that his kids were bored and irritable after visiting a series of elaborate amusement parks for their vacation. That comment strengthened our resolve to avoid extravagant vacations.
So if you’re planning some fun time away this summer, it’s helpful to consider carefully, as a family, what is the purpose of your vacation? Can it be more than just a memorable time together? Can it be more meaningful? And how might you work together toward those goals, instead of coming back having spent a lot of money and accumulated a backlog of emails to deal with, but not sure what you accomplished.
Recently, on a weekend when all our kids were home, we dug out the family videos for a trip down memory lane (or, in the case of our daughter-in-law, a crash-course in Jackson family history).
Our kids’ childhood antics were rather hilarious – particularly their clumsy attempts to steal the spotlight when a younger sibling was in the picture. In one scene, little Noah is being coaxed to try his first steps across the living room floor. When he hesitates, Daniel and Bethany literally plow him over in their attempts to prove to both parents and camera that “I can walk too!”
“Mom! Mom… Mommmmmmmm…”
In hindsight, attention-grabbing toddlers can be amusing. But in the moment, it can be frustrating for parents to deal with the annoyance of a child who demands constant attention.
So how can parents respond lovingly to their attention-guzzling children without “giving in” or creating spoiled children?
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Michael Phelps is now the most decorated Olympian in history. On Wednesday night, he won his 18th and 19th medals, making him — according to many — “the greatest Olympian ever”.
So what is Phelps’ secret?
Well, it could be his high-altitude sleeping chamber. But we think it has a lot to do with Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, and a somewhat strange coaching philosophy.
The Key to Avoiding Entitlement:
Are you unknowingly too child-centered?
We wrote recently about the problem of entitlement among children — about how many well-meaning parents, without thinking about it much, have become too child-centered. The article struck a nerve. Some felt offended or were defensive, while most strongly agreed but asked for more ideas about how to keep their kids from feeling entitled.
Researchers have told us that American parents are too child-centered. Is making our kids happy eclipsing our determination to teach them responsibility? According to the cited study, “Parents intend to develop their children’s independence, yet raise them to be relatively dependent, even when the kids have the skills to act on their own.” (Wall Street Journal, 3/13/2012). As a result, kids generally are growing up less prepared to take care of themselves and others than ever before. We call this problem “entitlement,” meaning kids who do not feel inclined to be responsible and helpful as part of daily life. Lynne and I have encountered this issue time and again in our own work coaching families.
Not so long ago it was different. For all of human history, until the last 60 years or so, kids were expected at young ages to do what they could do to help their family survive. In other words, their contributions were necessary to keep others afloat. Faith and values were passed naturally through this process as children and parents shared in the responsibilities of day to day life. Every child was an asset because every child was another worker in the labor force of the family/clan. Kids felt significant not just because parents said ‘I love you’ at bedtime or sent notes in their lunchbox, but because they knew that if they didn’t do their part others would suffer.
This concept of being needed is absent in most American homes. Instead of growing up to believe they are here for others, kids grow up to believe that others are here for them. Add to the mix a child’s selfish, sinful nature, and we’ve got a real problem on our hands.